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Council Leader Apologises to Tenants ‘Left in the Lurch’ by Fraud Investigation Delays

Published on: 22 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 23 Feb, 2024

Wodehouse Place, off Epsom Road in Guildford town centre

By Martin Giles

Tenants and leaseholders at Wodehouse Place, off the Epsom Road, a block of 26 flats owned by Guildford Borough Council, have been “left in the lurch” with necessary repairs left undone, according to one of their ward councillors, Maddy Redpath (R4GV), whose claim is echoed by one of the leaseholders Dale Askew, along with the residents’ association.

Council leader and lead councillor for housing, Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough), responded this evening apologising “for any inconvenience caused by the disruption” and reassuring residents that the building has been inspected and “certified as safe”.

Tenants complain of exposed wiring…

Mr Askew told The Guildford Dragon NEWS: “For GBC tenants and leaseholders there has been a complete service failure within the council’s housing department.

“In addition to the experienced officers whose contracts were terminated or suspended, the executive head of housing Andrew Smith also left at the end of December, seemingly turning the lights off on his way out. Due to the catalogue of unresolved issues, Mr Smith had previously met with our residents’ association and was working hard to assist in moving towards resolution. ”

“We had work underway that suddenly stopped in September and for some tenants elsewhere this meant incompleted kitchens or bathrooms. In the block I live in there are substantial electrical, emergency lighting and fire safety works left unfinished.

… incompleted wiring and trunking associated with fire safety work…

“GBC has only now written to all residents saying they’ve entered a tendering process but it will be six to nine months before these works are resumed. In the meantime, we are living on a building site.

“Existing contractors had their contracts ‘paused’ while they are renegotiated. It is expected that it will take up to three months until they are resumed. This means any tenants who’ve reported non-urgent repairs will have been waiting several months in addition to the major works which have been stopped.

“I reported a faulty window in June last year and am still waiting for it to be fixed. I can’t even get a response to the complaint I logged.”

Cllr Maddy Redpath

Ward councillor Maddy Redpath (R4GV, Castle) added: “It has been said that maintenance of council properties is continuing but that is not what I am seeing.

“With the ongoing HRA investigation now in its sixth month and staff no longer in post, or out of the loop, who are tenants, leaseholders and councillors meant to go to address issues and get repairs made? They seem to have been left completely in the lurch.

See: Senior Directors Step Back Following New Report on Fraud & Overspend Investigation

“Who is accountable if something goes wrong? Who is taking the lead in maintaining the vital service we provide our tenants and leaseholders? The lead councillor for Housing, Julia McShane, is the only councillor with access to the relevant information and resource to sort this out – will she? She needs to roll up her sleeves and see directly what is going on for herself.

“Tenants and leaseholders at Wodehouse Place have been more than patient. They have come to me as their ward councillor since 2020 with endless issues but what can I do when others at the council seem to have their heads in the sand and there are no officers left to contact?”

Summarising the situation at Wodehouse Place, Cllr Redpath said: “Major electrical and fire safety works were started without notice in June 2023. The tenants, leaseholders and I were told they were ‘urgent’ and necessary to comply with legislation due to come into force from 1st October last year but the works stopped suddenly in September when the [Housing Revenue Account] investigation started with no communication to residents or myself.

… and more incompleted work and lighting that remains on at tenants’ expense 24 hours a day.

“They have been left with bright lighting throughout the corridors which is permanently on 24 hours a day, shining into residents’ homes, another cost to the leaseholders who are liable for the communal electricity charges, and have also been advised they will be charged for the ’emergency works’.”


  • there are cables sticking out of the wall and ceiling around the building;
  • new cables have been installed that aren’t boxed in (including in residents’ own homes);
  • walls and ceilings have been hacked to pieces;
  • the block has been left in a general state of disrepair;
  • there has been no communication from GBC to inform what was happening until this month. It says they are going through a retendering process and will be at least six months until a new contractor is appointed;
  • residents have asked for electrical certification for the works which GBC doesn’t appear to have.”

Cllr Redpath explained that together with representatives from the residents’ association she met  head of housing Andrew Smith on November 1, and said numerous actions from that meeting are outstanding. Mr Smith departed suddenly at the end of December and there had been no follow-up meeting, as promised.

She continued: “The council seems mired in the investigation and has no strategy to resume the works that were ceased and provide repair services as usual.

“The situation is a complete mess and both the residents and I have been left frustrated and disillusioned. I have also been contacted by several other tenants across the borough who are suffering from similar issues and are also being ignored.”

Cllr Julia McShane

Council leader Julia McShane said: “We’re committed to rectifying issues within housing maintenance promptly and ensuring the safety and comfort of all our residents. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused by the disruption to our planned schedule of work.

“There have been delays to Wodehouse Place and we understand that this is frustrating to the residents who live there. We have contacted all [council] tenants including those at Wodehouse Place informing them of the situation and the possible delays to some work. We’ve also held two drop-in sessions for all of our tenants to feed back any issues they are experiencing.

“I want to reassure Wodehouse Place residents that their building has been inspected and it has been certified as safe. We’re aware further work is needed, and I understand tenants may be disappointed in the delay in the completion of this.

“Tenants have multiple ways to contact us to report a repair. They can call customer services during office hours on 01483 505050 use our out-of-hours number for emergencies 01483 532122 or use the form on our website:

“Please be assured that during this difficult time, day-to-day work such as emergency repairs will continue to be carried out immediately.

“We’re working hard to deliver a standard of service our tenants deserve. The wellbeing of our tenants remains our priority and we are dedicated in making sure they all have a safe and comfortable home.”

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